Mathematics

  • This article originally appeared on Septermber 1, 2015 in Comment,a publication of CARDUS: www.cardus.ca.

    For better or ill, my academic meanderings have brought me to a career where I spend the majority of my time building mathematical models to aid health-care managers in solving complex scheduling and capacityplanning problems. In other words, I try to convince health-care managers, on the strength of my word, to adopt often counterintuitive policies based on complex mathematical models they cannot hope to understand—and that doing so will provide better care for those who need it. Think of it as bringing Walmart's supply-chain sophistication to the world of health care. But what makes my work most difficult is not solving equations, or even explaining them. Rather, those I seek to convince are largely driven by a utilitarian ethic that uses mathematics to justify ends that, in my mind, contradict the proper goals of medicine.

  • By Harold Klassen

    Sometimes a bit of uncertainty can be a marvelous thing.

    An article on the uncertainty of statistics is a thing of beauty to read especially when people seem so focused on finding numbers that will support their personal perspective on any subject. Susan Hamersma wrote "Uncertainty: the beauty and bedrock of statistics" for Cardus in Comment magazine, October 22, 2020. Her economic knowledge and experience of how economics shapes public policy give her the authority to speak about the limitations of mathematics and statistics in particular.

  • “When all the impermanencies of the world are considered, when one thinks of vast empires that have fallen, of religious beliefs and customs consigned to the ash-heaps of time, of facts and systems of science patched up as a result of body blows received from pummeling nature; when one sees day-to-day arrangements of life changing rapidly even as we live in them, in what quarter are we to find a yearned for permanence? One answer has been-and it has been an answer for a very long time indeed - mathematics. It is asserted that the proven statements of mathematics are true and indubitably so; that they are universal, that their truth is independent of time and of national (or even intergalactic) origin. These are commonly held views; and since they are by no means self-evident, they have naturally been the subject of discussions for rather a long time. Such discussions have, over the years, constituted a good fraction of what is called the philosophy of mathematics. In the opinion of the writer (and of many observers of the mathematical scene) these views are naive and lead to a picture of mathematical activity that is inadequate.”

    From “When a Mathematician Says No,” Mathematics Magazine, Volume 59, Number 2, Pages: 67-76

  • It is rare for someone to pose a mathematical question that elicits a variety of answers, but Philip J. Davis has done just that, commenting wryly, "There are probably more answers to this question that there are people who have though deeply about it."

  • “I met a young man who had recently graduated from high school, where a mathematics teacher had labeled him a ‘bigot’ for thinking it was important to get the right answer.” (Nancy Pearcey, Total Truth)

  • Of all scientists, mathematicians are most inclined to believe in God. – A finding of Professor Edward Larson of the University of Georgia and Larry Witham of Bartonsville, Maryland, in a survey of 600 scientists, as reported by the London Weekly Telegraph.

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